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cittern (sĭtˈərn), stringed musical instrument of the guitar family having an oval body, a flat back, and a fretted neck. Its strings, made of wire and varying in number, were plucked. It was first made in the Middle Ages and at that time was usually called citole or sitole. The name cittern was given it in the 16th cent. in England, where, as in all western Europe, it was very popular until the early part of the 18th cent. It has also been called cister, cistre, cithern, cithren, citharen, cetera, cither, cithara, gittern, and sittron.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an ancient plucked stringed instrument. The cittern, which had a pear-shaped body, resembled the modern mandolin; it had four to 12 pairs of metal strings and one treble string. It was common in Germany, Italy, and other Western European countries from the 15th to the early 19th century and was especially popular among the urban population in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The instrument was subsequently supplanted by the guitar. Special types of citterns included the archcittern, the tenor cittern, and the English guitar. The cittern is still played in Spain.


Sachs, C. Handbuch der Musikinstrumentenkunde, 2nd ed. Leipzig [1966]. Pages 205–09.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
A 'consort', in Elizabethan terms, consisted of members of the same family of instruments, but both Thomas Morley's First Booke of Consort Lessons (1599) and Philip Rosseter's Lessons for Consort (1609) are scored for a 'broken' or 'mixed' consort; that is, transverse flute or recorder, treble viol, bass viol, cittern, and bandore, with the addition of a treble lute.
Over 30 years on, Mr Sobell has built-up an international reputation and sells hand-made guitars, citterns, mandolins and bouzoukis around the world.
He added: "But I started to sort the problems out when I built my first cittern in 1973.
Sadly none of his jigs survive although music parts for a cittern (a small wire-strung banjo-like instrument), recorder and bass viol for a Tarltons Jigge are preserved in manuscript in Cambridge University Library, which suggests that accompaniments could be rich and varied.